The best laptop with upgradeable RAM gives you latitude to get more processing power from your portable computer. People who are new to computing tend to think of laptops as quite self-contained things – what you see is what you get. But this isn’t necessarily the case, and many laptop PCs are surprisingly flexible in terms of components that can be swapped out, modified and replaced. We’ve picked out a few of the best for this guide to get you started.
First things first – for those who don’t know, “RAM” stands for “Random Access Memory”. This term doesn’t just refer to a mid-tier Daft Punk album, but also what is effectively your computer’s digital workbench. When you call up a file or a program from your hard drive, your computer places it in a temporary workspace that allows the processor to access it quickly and efficiently, meaning you can interact with the file or program in real time.
As such, a larger amount of RAM (say, 16GB compared to 8GB) means your computer can run programs and call up large files much faster. It’s also especially useful for multi-tasking – i.e. running multiple programs at once. This is particularly important in creative industries, where you may need to flick quickly from one complex piece of software to another.
Laptops with upgradeable RAM aren’t for everyone – we’ll get into the pros and cons of it later in this guide. But before that, here’s our pick for the best laptop with upgradeable RAM right now, as well as a few alternative options.
Best laptop with upgradeable RAM
The Dell XPS 15 is one of the most well-regarded Windows laptops around, and the fact that you can upgrade both the RAM and the storage is just icing on the cake. Its RAM sticks can be fairly easily removed and replaced, meaning that upgrading the RAM is a relatively straightforward task. Storage-wise, the XPS 15 has two M.2 2280 slots, so get a couple of compatible SSDs and you’re good to go.
Elsewhere, the Dell XPS 15 is just an all-around excellent laptop. It has particularly impressive battery life, and the display options run all the way up to UHD+ with InfinityEdge (a fancy term for thin bezels). The laptop chassis itself is nice and slim; at 3/4-inch thickness, it’s definitely more portable than many comparable high-powered laptops.
The Dell XPS 15 ships in an array of storage options, from the baseline of 8GB RAM and 512GB storage, all the way up to a meaty 64GB RAM and a whopping 8TB of storage. However, something that no shortage of reviewers have pointed out is that the retail price climbs precipitously once you start actually applying these options.
This is one reason why the Dell XPS 15 is such a good example of a laptop with upgradeable RAM – because if you know what you’re doing, you can get a super-powerful Dell XPS 15 at a significant discount compared to what you’d pay at retail. Alternatively, you can also arrange RAM upgrades through Dell themselves, should you want to guarantee compatibility (some users have reported issues with Corsair and Kingston RAM upgrades – double-check before buying wherever possible).
Other upgradeable RAM laptops
CPU: Intel Core i5/i7/i9 options
Base RAM: 8/16GB
Max memory capacity: 32GB
The Acer Nitro 5 is a pretty straightforward, budget-friendly gaming laptop – which makes it a great candidate for introducing a little more juice by upgrading the RAM. All models, from the newer Nitro 5 laptops released in 2022 to older models from previous generations, have easily accessible RAM slots, making the process relatively straightforward. Get yourself a SODIMM RAM stick and you’re ready to go. The Acer Nitro 5 does have the unmistakable budget feel in certain ways, as its back cover is cheap plastic and its trackpad is a little substandard. But does it provide value for money? We’d say it does, and the fact that the RAM is so easy to upgrade means you can save real cash by opting for a basic model and subbing in new components.
- Easily accessible RAM slots
- Thick screen bezels
- Somewhat plasticky construction
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7/9
Base RAM: 16/32/64GB
Max memory capacity: 64GB
Among the Alienware m17 series, the Alienware m17 R5 is a lower-tier option – and that means by any other standards, it’s still a top-tier gaming laptop. Loaded up with AMD Ryzen processor options in a recent update, it comes with baseline RAM options of 16, 32 and 64GB, and the latter option is its memory ceiling. This means you can save some cash by opting for one of the lower-spec options and upgrading the RAM. The Alienware m17 R5 is well-optimized for gamers along the rest of its spec, especially its gorgeous display, and there’s a pleasing amount of customizability on offer when you buy it. Be warned though, this is not a lightweight laptop. It weighs in at a minimum of 6.9 lbs, which is the sort of weight you’ll notice if it’s atop your lap too long.
- Well optimized for gaming
- High-quality display options
- Ryzen chips slower than Intel
- Pretty bulky and hefty
CPU: Intel Core i7 / i9 options
Base RAM: 16/32GB
Max memory capacity: 32GB
Another exceptional gaming laptop, the HP Omen 17 scores points for its excellent thermal performance – it keeps cool without generating a lot of excess noise, which is nice to have when you’re embarking on a marathon gaming session. Pick up one of the cheaper 16GB versions with an Intel Core i7 chip and you’ll have the capacity to upgrade its two RAM slots to a maximum memory of 32GB. This is potentially much cheaper than buying the flashy version with 32GB out of the box, and is well worth considering if you’re planning some high-intensity gaming. The baseline HP Omen 17 handles gaming pretty well already, so you’re all but guaranteed some seriously impressive performance.
- Good cooling performance
- Excellent overall value
- Lovely high-quality display
- Quite a heavy boy
- Keyboard has no number pad
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5/7
Base RAM: 8/16GB
Max memory capacity: 32GB
Some manufacturers are a little reluctant to talk too much about the opportunities for upgrading their laptops, particularly with third-party gear. ASUS, by contrast, are pretty pro it, with a long history of supporting the PC-building community. They have published online guides to upgrading laptops, and have made the relevant slots relatively easy to access to streamline the process. Plus, the ASUS TUF Gaming A15 is already a solid gaming laptop in its own right, particularly in terms of graphical performance, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU. It’s also not too heavy compared to similar options, weighing in at around 5.07 lbs. Overall, the A15 is a pretty impressive option – though you may want to think about an alternative audio setup, as the built-in speakers are somewhat tinny and unpleasant.
- Excellent NVIDIA graphics
- Easy RAM-upgrade process
- Build quality not the most solid
- Poor-quality speakers
Laptops with upgradeable RAM – pros and cons
Why buy a laptop with upgradeable RAM?
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A laptop with upgradeable RAM gives you latitude to improve your computer speed as time goes on. It means you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and get a whole new laptop when the time comes that you want to give yourself a little more power. It means you have a little breathing room when buying a computer – it can sometimes be difficult to judge how much RAM you’re going to need, especially if you’re running multiple programs by necessity. If you find after buying a laptop that you’ve underestimated the processing power you need, being able to upgrade it is a real asset.
Also, laptops with upgradeable RAM will often have upgradeable storage too, meaning you can expand your computer’s ability to store files at the same rate as its processing power. And if you’re looking to expand your under-the-hood knowledge of computers, maybe with a view to building your own PC in the future, upgrading a laptop’s RAM is a good place to start getting up close and personal with the architecture and components that make computers run.
We’ve touched on this already, but it’s worth remembering that buying a lower-spec PC and upgrading its parts can be much more cost-effective than buying a brand-new high-RAM machine, in terms of power on the dollar. Laptop prices rise sharply as RAM does, so those on a low budget should definitely consider an upgradeable machine.
What are the trade-offs of a laptop with upgradable RAM?
On the surface, there aren’t many reasons not to buy a laptop with upgradeable RAM – after all, upgrading isn’t compulsory, and you can simply never do it if you don’t want to. However, it is worth thinking about whether upgrading RAM is something that’s right for you.
First things first – laptops can’t have their RAM upgraded indefinitely. Any computer has a maximum memory capacity that will dictate how much RAM it can handle, so you’ll need to check this before you buy any components. We’ve listed the maximum memory capacities of the laptops in our guide, but if you pick up a different model, remember to check this.
You may have also noticed that many of the laptops with upgradeable RAM featured in our guide are on the bulky side. Removable components will generally require more space than those found in ultra-thin ultrabooks and chromebooks, which tend to favor soldered-on components that are not easy to remove or replace without damaging the motherboard.
While it’s easier than it used to be, upgrading RAM is an involved process that will require you to open up your computer and tinker manually with its components. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it does require a little know-how and confidence, and may not suit everyone. There is always the option of paying someone else to do it for you, but this naturally will add to your outlay, and can negate the cost-savings you made by not just buying a high-RAM model to begin with.
There’s also the fact that opening up the back of your computer to tinker with its RAM is likely to void the warranty. This could prevent you from getting a refund or free repair from the manufacturer if something goes wrong down the line – even if the problem isn’t necessarily related to the RAM upgrade. Compatibility can also be an issue – not all RAM modules are compatible with all laptops, and it can take a bit of sleuthing to figure out which will work with yours.
Ultimately, upgrading your laptop’s RAM is a great thing to do if you are reasonably confident with computers and don’t mind getting your hands dirty. If this isn’t the case, then you’re probably better off biting the bullet and buying a laptop off the shelf with the amount of RAM you’re likely to need.